Posts Tagged ‘systematic theology’

Nature of the Gaps

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted here, and I hope anyone who has come recently hoping to find a new blog hasn’t been too disappointed and left my blog entirely. The holiday season has been a crazy one, to be sure. But life keeps on chugging, so hopefully I’ll be able to get back on here more frequently and talk about some of things God has been doing in my life, as well as some of the things He continues to show me.

This blog is courtesy of Systematic Theology, Volume 2 by Norman Geisler. In his chapter titled “The Sustenance of Creation,” he makes an interesting argument about the differences between origin science and operation science.

Before I get into his points, let me back up and explain to anyone not familiar with the term “God of the gaps.” This is a term that has a rather negative connotation to theists. In a sense, non-theists state that theists will use God to explain anything that doesn’t have an already-determined explanation for its cause. This is used of anything that may not have a foolproof naturalistic explanation as to its cause; although the answer may not be there, it’s not right to insert God as the answer for what we don’t know.

This is where the arguments of origin science vs. operation science begin to take place. Operation science is much of what we consider modern science today. Operation science is rooted in observable regularities, meaning something that we can see taking place, and that can be repeated and deemed as a process. The scientific method is based off of these basic principles, taking something scientific to be observable, measurable and repeatable. Anything that can be deemed an observable regularity is considered to be part of operation science (examples: the metamorphosis of a butterfly, the 3 changeable states of water). If it is something that can be seen as part of a natural process and repeated, it is operation science. It is true that God of the gaps has no business in operation science, and we can all agree.

The counter-argument to that is the idea of “nature of the gaps.” Just like God of the gaps, nature of the gaps is the misconception that whatever we don’t know, we should insert the belief that a natural cause is responsible. This is applicable to origin science, which is based upon unobservable singularities. This is an event that happens only once, therefore it cannot be repeated, which means modern science cannot hope to measure it, study the process of it, and therefore determine its cause. The ultimate conclusion is this: God of the gaps has no place in operation science, and nature of the gaps has no place in origin science.

Perhaps when I get home and can get to the book I will edit this post and let Geisler put it more eloquently than I just did. But I think it’s safe to say that to be too presumptuous about any area of science we don’t completely understand is a tenuous position to hold, and we ought to step back and consider what place our argument really has weight. When we fully realize we are not as smart as we think we are, only then are we truly in a position to understand and learn.

A Year Ago Today, I…

For any faithful readers out there, today is my birthday. I am 26, so to some I’m really old, to some I have no idea what “old” really is. It’s amazing when you tick another year off on your birthday calendar to step back and think about all of the changes a year has brought. Here are some of things that were going on one year ago today:

A year ago today, I wasn’t a member of a local church, in fact not even really attending church all that much, because we were too busy. Now I am actively serving as part of an amazing Christian fellowship, with whom God has blessed us even in the short time we’ve been there in terms of mentors, friends, brothers and sisters in Christ.

A year ago today, I was busy hunting down paperwork to submit to the mortgage company. Now it has been 11 months since we moved into our house, and already it is filled with tons of memories (and plans for new paint!).

A year ago today, I was lamenting having to travel for a gig, because I knew how uncomfortable my 7-months-pregnant WIFE would be in a car for three hours each way. Now I would lament the same trip because my beautiful daughter isn’t prepared to do such long stretches at 9 1/2 months old.

A year ago today, I would suspect that my daughter probably weighed between 4-5 lbs. Now she is pushing 20 lbs, which is just under double her birthweight!

A year ago today, I was afraid I would be forgetting all of my Bradley baby class exercises that would prepare me for being a good birthing coach. Since then WIFE has had a very successful, completely natural birthing experience, and we are looking forward to whenever round two comes!

A year ago today, I was glad to be getting the insurance break for turning 25. Now I’m just glad I’m one year farther away from being drafted, though I don’t expect the military would take me anyway.

A year ago today, I had never heard of the cosmological argument, teleological argument, ontological argument or moral argument. In fact, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as systematic theology. Now, I use these every day in discussing the existence of God with atheists on our beloved WordPress.

A year ago today, it had been several years since I last played my electric guitar, and several days since I played my mandolin. Now, it’s been several days since I played electric guitar (which I do weekly now), and my mandolin has sort of taken the backseat.

And finally, a year ago today, I was content in my relationship with God, feeling like I was where He wanted me to be. Now I realize that being content is laziness, because God is always working, always moving, and so I should be doing the same so I am continually growing in my relationship and understanding of Him.

God can do a lot with a year. If 25 to 26 was so eye-opening, I can only imagine what 26 to 27 is going to be. Thanks Lord! 🙂

The Teleological Argument

I never realized until now that God has been training me even since I knew what it meant.

I grew up in a Christian home that was never short on Bibles. When I was growing up, my favorite Bible was a New Century Version because interspersed throughout the Bible were stories (both fiction and non-fiction) or some facts you might find in a science or history book that were pertinent to what Scriptures were on the page. I don’t remember what the Scriptures were for, but I do remember one such excerpt talking about the idea that if the earth were a few thousand feet closer to the sun we would burn up, and if it were a few thousand feet further away from the sun we would all freeze. The purpose, of course, was to point out intelligent design.

In reading up in Systematic Theology by Norman Geisler, I realized that such arguments are under the banner of a bigger argument for the existence of God: the Teleological Argument. This argument contains 2 pieces. One is the “anthropic principle,” which encompasses what I talked about above and I’ll get into some more detail about later. The second piece is one I hadn’t heard of until my Bible study went through the Truth Project recently. That second piece is the notion of “irreducible complexity.”

Let me explain this concept the best way I can. The term “irreducible complexity” is actually a term taken from Darwin. In Chapter VI of his book “On the Origin of Species,” Darwin explains that one of the bases for his theory is the ability for organisms to undergo slight modifications over a period of time to evolve into their current state. His conclusion says thus: “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find out no such case.” He goes on to say that such an organ would be “irreducibly complex,” and would destroy his theory.

The interesting thing is that modern biochemistry seems to have found what Darwin could not — an irreducibly complex organism. Ironically, this organism is the basis for all human life. It is the structure of the human cell. It has been determined that if any one piece of the cell’s make-up were to be removed, the entire structure of the cell would fall apart and cease to be. If every single piece is necessary, then there is no “evolutionary link” that could have been lacking any part of its structure. The cell either exists in full form or it doesn’t exist; there is no middle ground.

One other such example is the bacterial flagellum, which requires all parts in order to be a fully functioning organism. Those attempting to refute this idea suggest that not enough is yet known about the bacterial flagellum with which to make this conclusion to a certainty. Another interesting concept is the idea of blood clotting. If this process evolved the way other processes evolve, then the starting point or middle ground would have meant that blood would not clot properly, in which case a person (or ape, or whatever) would simply bleed out because nothing could stop the bleeding. If all of these creatures were dead, then how could they evolve? It appears that Darwin’s theory is breaking down.

The anthropic principle is equally important to emphasize the nature of a Creator with intelligence and a perfect knowledge of what we need. My understanding of this principle is that there is evidence suggesting some intelligent design in the way the Earth was created for us to be able to sustain life on it . Some examples given by Geisler:

1) Earth’s atmosphere is 21% oxygen. If this ratio was 25%, fires would erupt; if it was 15%, humans would suffocate.
2) If the gravitational force were altered by merely one part in ten to the 40th power (ten followed by 40 zeroes), the sun would not exist and the moon would crash into the earth or veer off into space.
3) If the universe were expanding at a rate one-millionth more slowly than it is, the temperature on Earth would be 10,000 degrees Celsius.
4) If the earth’s crust were thicker, too much oxygen would be transmitted to support life. If it were thinner, volcanic and tectonic activity would make life untenable.

Albert Einstein may have summed it up best when he said, “The harmony of natural law…reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection.”

What’s most telling about the teleological argument is that its claims are made based on scientific discovery, which is the primary rebuttal against a pro-theistic stance (no evidence of intelligent design in science). From what I’ve seen in debates on YouTube and other websites (which of course, is filled with bias both ways and what I’ve seen in no way represents every mention of the subject), it appears that evolutionary biology is scrambling to find answers to these questions posed to them. I admit that I entered this realm with a definite bias, but this type of science leaves me with fewer questions and more answers, which is more than I can say about evolution at this point.

I guess ultimately what I’m saying is that I’m so glad to have a God that is omniscient and can foresee our needs, and as a result tailored together such a wonderful thing that can support our existence. I’m sure similar posts are forthcoming, as this is only chapter two in volume one of systematic theology. I’m anxious to learn more about our great God!